The Steelers and about 2,500 fans battled the hot sun and cicada swarms Saturday afternoon at Consol Energy Park, all for a good cause, raising money for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown’s charity softball game brought in thousands of dollars for Children’s Hospital through game proceeds and charity auctions that took place during the event.
And it gave some local baseball players an opportunity to get on the same field as some of their sports heroes.
About 40 members of Washington Youth Baseball’s Rebels travel teams were invited to shag balls for the Steelers and some media members during the home run derby that took place before the game.
“It was really fun,” said 11-year-old Matthew Smith of Washington, who had a selfie on his cell phone taken with Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
It was that kind of day, even for the Steelers and others who took part in the game.
Brown’s team won the game, 10-9, on back-to-back home runs by Brown and safety Will Allen in the final inning.
But it was Children’s Hospital which was the big winner.
“This was a great experience for a great cause,” said Brown, who stayed well after the game was completed, signing autographs and shooting video with the NFL Network, which was on hand to record the festivities.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out. We look forward to doing this again next year.”
Allen, for one, would be open to that, provided the Steelers re-sign him.
A starter at strong safety for the Steelers last season, the 33-year-old remains a free agent and isn’t ready to retire.
“I’m just waiting for a call, working out every day,” said Allen. “I’ve got a lot left. I thought I made some impactful plays last season and I’m in better shape now than I was last year. I’m excited for (the future).”
Allen had 80 tackles, an interception and a career-high four sacks last season.
He’s kept an eye on what the Steelers did this offseason, taking note that they selected safety Sean Davis in the second round of the draft.
Allen was in a similar situation with Tampa Bay in 2004. The Buccaneers selected Allen in the fourth round of the draft that year, releasing veteran John Lynch in a salary cap-related move. Lynch signed with Denver and went on to play four more seasons. Allen signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 2009.
“I’m open and I’m ready for whatever team wants me,” Allen said. “I get the business side of things. I’m ready and prepared to kill it when I get my opportunity.”
On this day, the only things getting killed were some softballs.
Several players showed off a powerful stroke with a bat, including wide receiver Sammie Coates and fullback Roosevelt Nix, who were among those who hit balls completely out of the stadium.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, despite being 5-10, 189 pounds, also powered the ball out of the stadium and was joined by Cleveland’s Terrelle Pryor as non-Steelers who played.
Not all the players, however, proved to be adept at changing sports.
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier struggled mightily in batting practice, swinging and missing a number of times. He was forced to try to bunt his way onto base during the game.
“That’s why you’re so good at football,” Steelers linebacker Vince Williams yelled at Shazier, taunting him. “You stink at everything else.”
Not that anyone in the stands minded. They enjoyed seeing and interacting with the players, especially the youngsters.
Nine-year-old Darius Clark, another member of the Rebels, stayed along with his father, Mark, and many of his teammates to watch the game that took place after the home run derby.
“He missed (a fly ball) and I grabbed it,” Clark said, pointing to one of his teammates.
“We got our picture taken with Markus Wheaton. We had a lot of fun.”